Our history

In 1826, Simon Lévelt opened a small ‘colonial dry goods’ shop in the old port of Amsterdam, where he dedicated himself to selling the finest coffees and teas from faraway overseas places; initially only to private persons, later also to other companies. Little did he know that, almost two centuries later, his modest business would have developed into an established brand of coffees and teas with shops across the Netherlands and Belgium. Today the coffee-roasting and tea-trading company has been passed on from father to son or daughter for six generations.

Simon Lévelt history

200 years craftsmanship

1826
October 10

1826: Simon Levelt

1826: Simon Levelt
In 1826, Simon Lévelt opened a small ‘colonial dry goods’ shop in the old port of Amsterdam, where he dedicated himself to selling the finest coffees and teas from faraway overseas places; initially only to private persons, later also to other companies. Little did he know that, almost two centuries later, his modest business would have developed into an established brand of coffees and teas with shops across the Netherlands and Belgium. Today the coffee-roasting and tea-trading company has been passed on from father to son or daughter for six generations.
1857
May 6

1850: Jacobus Levelt (1819-1893)

1850: Jacobus Levelt (1819-1893)
When Jacob Levelt, Simon’s son, joins the business in 1850, this marks the start of a new era: he decides to actively approach shops, restaurants and cafés in order to expand the current customer base of private clients, a breakthrough that still benefits the company to this day. The shop also experiences enormous growth, selling coffee as the main product and tea as a secondary product. Under Jacob’s inspiring leadership the company invests in a new, steam-powered coffee roasting machine and starts calling itself a coffee-roasting house. In 1886 the company registers the name ‘De Ster’ (The Star) as a trademark, referring to the star on the gable stone of the building where the first coffee roaster was installed. From then onwards this name and image grace their packaging of the coffees and teas.
1897
May 6

1897: Henry Levelt (1863-1946)

1897: Henry Levelt (1863-1946)
In 1893, Henry Levelt takes over the baton from his father. This generation further streamlines the daily management of the company after the enormous growth and succeeds in safeguarding the quality of their products. In addition, Henry is responsible for the renovation of the company building on the Prins Hendrikkade in Amsterdam, including the replacement of the steam-powered roasting machine by a coal-powered one. Entrepreneurs from in and around Amsterdam turn to Henry when they need advice or a loan to start their own businesses. At one point he even discusses the possibilities of scaling up with a gentleman named Albert Heijn, owner of a small shop in Zaandam (now one of the largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands).
1925
May 6

1925: Jacobus Levelt (1900-1985) & Wilhelmus Levelt (1901-1981)

1925: Jacobus Levelt (1900-1985) & Wilhelmus Levelt (1901-1981)
As usual in a family business, sons Jacobus and Wilhelmus take over from their father in the company. Once again the roasting machine is replaced, this time by a modern gas-powered one. Both men focus on different parts of the company’s activities: Jacobus is responsible for purchasing and the administration. In addition he is an expert in tasting and evaluating coffee and tea. This leads to the development of many new varieties of coffee and tea, all of the finest quality. Wilhelmus, also referred to as ‘the doctor’, is originally a chemist, a background that enables him to improve Dutch caffeine-free coffee in 1926. When World War II breaks out, the company enters a difficult period. However, Wilhelmus and Jacobus manage to prevent forced redundancies by developing surrogate products and supplying these to all high-end hotels in the Netherlands. After the war the company makes a recovery when it becomes a supplier for Spar, at that point already a large supermarket chain.
1964
May 6

1964: Simon Levelt & Hans Levelt

1964: Simon Levelt & Hans Levelt
On 16 January 1964, the next generation makes its entry in the company. Simon and Hans, the sons of Jacobus and Wilhelmus, take over their fathers’ tasks. On the very same day they assume leadership, they immediately lose their largest customer, the Spar, because it has centralised its purchasing. Simon and Hans manage to compensate this loss by providing contract packaging for external parties and acquiring new assignments. For example, they produce ‘bakers’ coffee’ and ‘butchers’ coffee’ for shopkeepers who want to expand their product range in response to the increasing competition of the new self-service shops. In addition the two cousins focus their attention on end consumers: they set up a mail-order system and in 1968 they reopen the shop on the Prins Hendrikkade, which was closed in the years of depression.
1969
May 6

1969: Hans Levelt

1969: Hans Levelt
In 1969 Simon Levelt decides to leave the company to pursue other interests. Hans Levelt continues to lead the company and, in 1971, takes an important step towards the future by acquiring Alex Meijer, a small coffee-roasting house in Amsterdam which owns the renowned Keijzer coffee and tea shops. This move forms the basis for the current coffee and tea shops.
1984
May 6

1984: Introduction organic coffee and tea in the Netherlands

1984: Introduction organic coffee and tea in the Netherlands
In the 1970s, Hans Levelt visits the company’s suppliers for the first time. Shocked by the working conditions on the plantations and the extensive use of chemicals, he decides to change Simon Levelt’s purchasing process so the company can support its producers in the transition to a different form of agriculture. In the early 1980s, the first batches of organic tea (from Sri Lanka) and organic coffee (from Mexico) are purchased. In 1998, Simon Lévelt is one of the initiators of the Max Havelaar foundation, the Dutch member of FLO International. Together with Nico Roozen, manager of Solidaridad, he develops a certification label for fair-trade coffee.
1994
May 6

1994: The first coffee and tea specialty shop opens its doors

1994: The first coffee and tea specialty shop opens its doors
The first coffee and tea specialty shop based on a retail format is opened in Amsterdam (on the Ferdinand Bolstraat). Later that year, the shop in Utrecht follows. In 2001 the fast-growing chain of specialty shops receives the Retail Jaarprijs (Annual Retail Prize) in the Shop Presentation category, as well as a nomination in the Retail Chain Store category. The jury specifically praises the combination of ethical entrepreneurship and a profitable shop operation. Two years later, in 2003, the 25th specialty shop opens its doors in Apeldoorn.
2003
May 6

2003: Mikkel Levelt

2003: Mikkel Levelt
The 6th generation takes the helm in the person of Mikkel Levelt, Hans’ daughter and the first female director of the family company. Together with fellow director Rob Sikkema she intensifies the activities in the consumer market, starting with an update of the retail format and preparations for future activities.
© Simon Lévelt